Hopes of a win through to further rounds in this year's Halford Hewitt were dented early by knowledge of a 1st Round draw against Uppingham, a team in recent years on the up. This proved to be the case when we met them on the ground and lost by 4 matches to 1 on a very pleasant day at Royal St. George's, Sandwich.
Because of timing and other study-related commitments, we were unable to secure the services of our two talented recent young leavers, so this year's team had a more familiar ring to it. Chris Gates and Andy Sweet went into action against Uppingham's top pair and despite considerable enthusiasm, lost 4/3. Nick Gunn and Chris Pett (deputising at the very last minute for James Bell who failed an early morning fitness test) went out second and also lost 4/3 after never quite firing on all cylinders. Riaz Rattansi, unquestionably our star player this year, proved his worth with the ever-steady Geoffrey Bush and picked up a winning point 7/5 at third pair. Julian Tate partnered a rusty Roland Ainsworth but they never got going and lost 7/6, and Julian Hunt partnered the ever faithful Robin Colbourne. These last two made a good fist of it but some uncharacteristic shots saw them give too much away and they succumbed 2/1. It must be said that the figures that the Uppinghamians reeled off were quite impressive - runs of pars and birdies were far more frequent than other species.
So it was into the Plate competition again, in which our record has been rather better. The spice of a 1st Round local derby with Hurstpierpoint added interest. On a bright and breezy morning we met them and emerged victorious, 2-1. Andy Sweet and Chris Gates went down at second pair but Julian Tate and Geoffrey Bush were too steady for their third pair and picked up a matching point. The decider saw Julian Hunt and Roland Ainsworth win a satisfying point on the 18th after trailing at the halfway point.
This meant a further game on the same day in the 2nd Round against Cheltenham. With the wind rising to the limit of what Admiral Beaufort would only have described as a strong breeze, but which made play extremely tricky, we shuffled some pairs to allow Julian H. to return to family life (he won't do that again) but went down 2-1. Julian Tate and Geoffrey Bush ground out another well-deserved point, but the collapse of Andy's trolley (and distraction of thereby having to drag/carry for several holes a combination in excess of most airlines' baggage allowance) did his and Chris Gates' attempts to win no favours, and Roland and Robin, heroes of an earlier year, played a few too many loose shots after turning back into the wind on the back nine.
So another Kent campaign came to an end, but we stayed dry and, in particular, warm thanks to Chris Gates and the new smart team sweaters.
We enjoyed some terrific companionship, found a new hotel base which hopefully will serve us for a few years to come and we live in hope that, one day, we will get all our best players together at the same time and in form...